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DRC Peace Agreement brings hope to endangered gorillas
24 January 2008

During the afternoon of 23 January a peace agreement was signed in Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, by the Congolese government and a number of armed rebel groups. The agreement supports an immediate ceasefire and allows for the return of internally displaced people, who have been forced to rely on the Virunga National Park for resources. The agreement brings hope to the endangered Mountain gorillas whose habitat has suffered from this increased human pressure and who have remained without significant protection throughout the conflict.

Since the beginning of September the national park has been occupied by armed forces and much fighting has taken place. During this time a number of the ranger patrol posts have been under the control of various groups and gorilla patrols were forced to cease.

Tuver Wundi, the Gorilla Organization’s communications manager based in Goma says, “The signing of the peace agreements is an historic moment for Goma and eastern DRC. We hope for more peaceful times and look forward to resuming the gorilla monitoring activities in the Virunga National Park”.

Displaced communities have been forced to rely on the national park for firewood and other resources, and the subsequent increase in charcoal production inside the park has placed the gorilla habitat under greater threat.  The Gorilla Organization funds a number of community based conservation projects around the Virunga National Park that ease these pressures on the habitat by providing viable alternatives outside of the park. These projects include the provision of firewood-saving stoves, which reduce firewood consumption by up to 70%; water cisterns, to provide a reliable source of clean water; and microfinance schemes to help set up small businesses that will provide income independently of the national park.

Peace talks involving the government and more than 20 rebel groups lasted more than two weeks and were finally signed after a number of last minute disagreements were resolved. President Joseph Kabila was in attendance at the signing ceremony.

The Virunga National Park is home to around 70 Mountain gorillas, around one fifth of the 380 strong population living in the Virungas Massif straddling Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2007 at least eight gorillas were killed in the National Park and while it is still unclear as to why these gorillas lost their lives, a United Nations fact-finding mission commissioned in response to the attacks, stressed the importance of including local communities gorilla conservation efforts.



Ends

For further information or photographs contact:

Abi Girling, communications manager
The Gorilla Organization,110 Gloucester Avenue, London, NW1 8HX
Tel: 020 7916 4974
Mobile: 07801 971123
Email : abi@gorillas.org
www.gorillas.org

NOTES TO EDITORS

About the Gorilla Organization
The Gorilla Organization works internationally to save the world’s last remaining gorillas from extinction by supporting long-term economic development and conservation projects in the poor communities surrounding the gorilla habitat.

Formerly The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Europe, the Gorilla Organization was inspired by Dian Fossey herself to raise funds to protect the endangered Mountain gorillas. Today the organisation works to ensure the survival of lowland gorillas as well as mountain gorillas with projects including gorilla protection; agricultural development; the Durban Process (long-term solution to illegal mining); conservation and education; forest people and combating loss of habitat. In 2002 the Gorilla Organization won the BBC International Award for Outstanding Work in Conservation.
for further information or photographs contact:

David Hewitt, Communications Manager
The Gorilla Organization, 110 Gloucester Avenue, London, Nw1 8HX
Tel: 020 7916 4974
Mobile: 07801 971123
david@gorillas.org
www.gorillas.org